In Hong Kong there are growing concerns the government is condoning the excessive use of force against pro-democracy demonstrators after police shot a student protester on Tuesday.
More than 100 people were injured during Tuesday’s mass demonstrations in Hong Kong. Police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse crowds. Some protesters armed with rocks and homemade gasoline bombs also attacked police.
Lawful and reasonable
In one skirmish that was captured on video, an 18-year-old student was shot by a police officer, who was being attacked by protesters in Tsuen Wan neighborhood in Central Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Police Commissioner, Stephen Lo, said on Wednesday the officer’s use of potentially deadly force was “lawful and reasonable.”
“The police officer’s life was seriously endangered, so he fired one shot at the attacker,” said Lo.
This was the first time Hong Kong police fired live ammunition against a protester. In the past police only fired real bullets in the air as warning shots to disperse crowds of demonstrators. They also fired rubber bullets into crowds in the past.
The student who was shot underwent surgery and is in critical condition at a Hong Kong hospital.
On Wednesday supporters of the student held a sit in at his school the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College.
Some former students, who gave only their last names and wore anti-pollution masks to conceal their identities, expressed shock at the turn in the conflict between protesters and police.
“I cannot expect anything after this event, but surely this is an unforgettable moment,” said Fu, a former student.
And another former student named Chan disagreed with the police assessment that the shooting was justified.
“We do not agree that the police, they are using the right (amount of) force to do to a young protester who obviously from the video, he didn’t do anything,” said Chan.
The tens of thousands Hong Kong residents, who marched on Tuesday, defied a government ban on demonstrations enforced as a show of support for China’s ruling Communist Party anniversary celebration in Beijing.
The pro-democracy movement succeeded in pressuring the government to withdraw an extradition law that would have given Beijing broad powers to arrest Hong Kong citizens. These groups now demand direct elections for all leaders rather than elite committees selecting half the legislature.
They also want an independent inquiry into the possible excessive use of force and abuse by police.
Neither side in this dispute seems willing to compromise, even facing the prospect of increasingly violent clashes in the near future.
And an activist with a group called Citizens’ Press, who concealed his identify for fear of arrest, said the protesters would match the increased use of force from the police.
“With escalating oppression, we will offer escalating resistance,” he said.
Britain’s Foreign Minister called the use of live ammunition “disproportionate,” days after saying Britain wouldn’t look the other way in Hong Kong.
Some authorities in Hong Kong called the skirmishes across the city on Tuesday “riots,” with more than 180 people reportedly arrested.